The Bolivian city of La Paz provides a model as to how cable propelled transit can be incorporated successfully into an urban environment. The sprawling metro was subject to a highly inefficient transit system unable to handle growing user demand.
Additionally, the chaotic traffic on the roads produced harmful noise and air pollution. Working together, the federal and municipal governments found an effective solution to curtail this pressing issue.
The publicly financed La Paz-El Alto Cable Car, known as Mi Teleferico, has been a wild success. The Doppelmayr built system, completed in 2014, consists of 3 MDG (monocable detachable gondola) lines, which cover a total distance of 10km. Navigating the mountainous terrain, the service reduces travel time significantly between the two cities.
Image by Flickr user David Baggins.
Image by Flickr user Inhabitat
In the system’s first two years of operations, it transported an incredible 43.2 million passengers with a daily record of 162,000 riders. In the year of 2015, Mi Teleferico has generated a profit of $21 million.
The incredible popularity has led project planners to expand the number of lines by 7; increasing the length of the network by more than 20 km. Mi Teleferico demonstrates how gondola systems can be an effective way to improve transportation in a busy metropolis. —
Last Friday marked another impressive milestone for the rapidly growing urban cable car network in La Paz, Bolivia.
With the help of a drone, a guide cable was strung across section 2 (between Plaza Villarroel station and Plaza Triangular station) of the White Line (Spanish: Linea Blanca).
This task was completed ahead of schedule in just 7 hours with the help of more than 150 persons. Over the next week, progressively thicker cables will be strung across the alignment until the final 50mm steel cable is installed/spliced on August 5.
The entire project is moving ahead steadily as the electromechanical equipment for 2 stations (Plaza Villarroel and Monumento Busch) is already 100% complete while Plaza Triangular station is 80% complete.
Overall, the White Line is expected to open its doors to passengers by mid-2017. —
This past week, President Evo Morales announced the development of another urban cable car on the Mi Teleferico. The Sky Blue Line (Spanish: Linea Celeste) will be the eighth gondola alignment in the city’s phase two plans, which effectively makes it the 11th line of the entire Doppelmayr-built cable car network.
Sky Blue Line (Linea Celeste). Image from Mi Teleferico.
Similar to the Purple Line, the Sky Blue Line will be built with higher specs than the initial the three initial cable lifts. Here are some confirmed stats:
Speed: 6 m/s
Capacity: 4,000 pphpd
Travel Time: 11.8 minutes
While ridership numbers were not released, this line is expected to be one of the network’s busiest. And from a preliminary review, this will likely hold true since the Sky Blue system will intersect with two existing lines (Green and Yellow) and one future line (White).
Once built, the existing Libertador (Chuqui Apu) station — already the most travelled terminal with 5.2 million passengers per year — will enable passengers to transfer to three separate lines (Green, Yellow and Sky Blue).
Astute readers may notice that this week’s announcement calls for some modifications to the previously proposed phase 2 plans. In particular, there appears to be the following changes:
The previous Sky Blue Line is now known as the Golden Line (Spanish: Linea Dorado)
The new Sky Blue Line becomes a completely new system
The White Line (Spanish: Linea Blanca) no longer terminates at Libertador station, rather it will connect with the new Sky Blue Line’s San Jorge interchange station.
Libertador (Chuqui Apu) interchange station. Image from Skyscrapercity.
San Jorge interchange station connects riders to the White Line and Sky Blue line. Image from Skyscrapercity.
As part of the news release, the President also confirmed the development of the Silver Line (Spanish: Linea Plateada) and announced the construction of the Park of Cultures and Mother Earth (Spanish: Parque de las Culturas y la Madre Tierra).
In total, these investments are estimated to cost $110 million.
This past week, the Mi Teleférico (English: My Cable Car) network in La Paz-El Alto, Bolivia celebrated its 2nd birthday in grand fashion with music and live performances.
Despite its relatively short existence, the world’s largest network of urban cable cars has reached heights never achieved before by any other gondola line (figuratively speaking, the record for world’s highest passenger ropeway belongs to the Doppelmayr-built Dagu Glacier Gondola in China).
To highlight their achievements, the operators released a report called, Los Números de Mi Teleférico (English: The Numbers of My Cable Car).
The Numbers of My Cable Car. Image by Mi Teleferico.
The 92-page report is written in Spanish but with the help of colourful visuals and Google Translate, I’ve been able to summarize some of the main points most relevant to city-planning folks.
Passengers and Urban Mobility
43,248,826 passenger trips between May 29, 2014 to March 31, 2016 (22 months)
~60,000 riders per day with a daily network record ridership of 162,465
6,500 daily boardings per kilometre. In comparison, this mean that Mi Teleférico’s average daily boardings per kilometre is 17% greater than the highest average daily boardings per kilometre for LRTs in the US (Boston’s MBTA light rail: 5,368)
312ppm (cable car) vs. 1021ppm (minibus) — carbon dioxide levels in vehicles
59.3 decibels (cable car) vs 68.3 decibels (minibus) — noise levels in vehicles
2 accidents on cable car (due to falling tree and user behaviour) vs. 9,181 traffic accidents in La Paz (2015)
3 million litres of gasoline saved per year
8,000 tons of emissions prevented
1,129 trees planted in phase 1
Cable car revenues. Image by Mi Teleferico.
>100% farebox recovery ratio / 0% subsidy. Median farebox recovery ratio in US stands at ~35%
~US$21 million in revenue (Bs150 million)
~US$500,000 in tax contributions (Bs3.6 million)
~US$1.3 million in advertising revenue (Bs8.9million)
1397 direct jobs generated
4899 indirect jobs generated
As you could probably tell, the numbers above is merely a brief summary of the report. But if you’re interested, the 92-page report is actually a very enjoyable read (even for those who aren’t familiar with Spanish).
In the face of these telling numbers, some cynics have argued there are more pressing concerns in La Paz-El Alto that the government hasn’t addressed. While that is true to a certain degree, there’s no denying that Mi Teleférico is a smashing success.
As somewhat of a crude but somewhat accurate measurement, the system’s popularity and online following is massive with close to 170,000 likes on Facebook. This completely trumps what is found on other Facebook pages of major transit agencies: Toronto Transit Commission (12,200 likes); New York’s MTA (57,600 likes); and Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (122,500 likes).
It’s still incredible to see how in less than a decade, gondolas have transitioned from being a relatively “niche” public transit technology, to having an entire city build its transit backbone with Cable Propelled Transit (CPT).
Cabins for Blue and White Line are arriving soon. Image by Mi Teleferico.
And remember, it doesn’t end here. The city is continuing to blaze new trails and is ready to open 7 more lines in the upcoming future. This brings the entire city’s gondola network length to more than 30km! In fact, the Blue Line (Linea Azul) and White Line (Linea Blanca) is estimated to be 70-75% complete as of early April 2016.
Overall, these stats help reinforce what many in the ropeway industry already know — that is, cable car technology is amongst the safest, fastest, and most reliable transportation systems in existence.
A photo posted by Gus Morainslie (@gusmorainslie) on
Perhaps this isn’t all too surprising since the 10km long cable car network (3 lines: Red, Yellow, Green) has a total capacity of 18,000 per hour (both directions) while providing 12 second headways. For many riders, the US$0.40 urban gondola line ride has reduced travel times by up to 60 minutes, making it an attractive and cost-effective alternative to the chaotic bus system.
To better understand how deeply integrated the system is in people’s lives, the cable cars are often used to fulfill a variety of social objectives. For instance, the cable car recently served as a platform to promote awareness on HIV prevention.
While it is already considered the world’s largest network of urban gondolas, the president quickly announced plans for phase 2, thereby adding 6 more lines (totalling 20.3km, and 23 stations).
So far, these plans have been moving along at near break-neck speeds. Large shipments of ropeway equipment continue to arrive in the city from Doppelmayr’s Wolfurt headquarters. Based on online reports, the Blue Line and White Line are nearing completion with the Blue Line scheduled for operations by the first half of 2017. — CABLE CARS GALORE
And just this week, two major announcements were made.
A new cable car, the Silver Line (Linea Plateada) was announced while construction works for the Purple Line (Linea Morada) began.
The Silver Line will integrate with 4 cable car lines — the Yellow Line, Red Line, Purple Line and Blue Line. Image from Mi Teleferico.
Once designs are complete, construction of the Silver Line (2.6km, 3 stations, 11 minutes, 39 cabins, US$60 million) could start in 2017 and be operational by 2018/2019. The cable car will effectively unify and integrate 4 separate lines (Yellow, Purple, Blue and Red).
If this wasn’t enough excitement and activity for one week, the President took part in laying the foundation stone for the Purple Line (4.4km, 3 stations, 189 cabins).
Purple Line notice. Image by Mi Teleferico.
Unlike the cable cars found in phase 1, the Purple Line will feature higher specs and has been dubbed, the “Express Line”. Compared to existing travel times along this corridor, the Purple Line is projected to cut commutes by more than 20 minutes. —
Due to phase 1’s popularity (Red, Yellow, Green), it was found that greater capacities were needed to meet passenger demand. As such, the Purple Line has been designed with maximum speeds of 6m/s (5m/s in phase 1), capacity of up to 4,000 pphpd (3,000 pphpd in phase 1), 9 second headways (12 seconds in phase 1) and cabin spacing of 54m (60m in phase 1).
Once again, as we can see in the Purple Line, ropeway technology has demonstrated its ability to push the envelope and respond to the rapidly changing demands in the urban market.